Need Help With Paying Your Rent In An Emergency? Here’s How to Get It

Mum holding son struggling to pay rent in an emergency
| 8 min read Financial Assistance

Have you ever needed help with paying your rent in an emergency? Then Jess’ story may resonate with you.

Jess and her partner had just started to settle in after making a big move across the state. Suddenly, an unforeseen expense made a huge dent in their budget and left them in urgent need of help with paying their rent.

“My car failed its inspection, and to get roadworthy again I needed a $1,000 repair,” Jess recalls. “I had 10 days to get it fixed and our rent was due the next week.”

Jess and her partner were already finding it difficult to get by. They both had low paying jobs. Jess’ income depended on how many shifts she could pick up at the small takeaway shop she worked in. It was a case of either paying their rent or fixing her car.

Reluctantly, Jess asked her mother for help.

“We didn’t know what else to do,” she says. “If I couldn’t drive my car, I couldn’t get to work.”

Jess isn’t the only person in this kind of situation. Many people are only ever one emergency bill away from not being able to cover their household expenses. In fact, ABC News reported that a quarter of Aussie households had less than $1,000 in savings for emergencies. When most of this is needed for housing costs, it doesn’t leave much for anything else.

Why people need help with rent

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, “housing stress” occurs when more than 30% of a household’s gross income goes towards housing costs. When they are in the lowest income bracket (at least the lowest 40% of incomes), this leaves very little cashflow for other crucial expenses, like food, transport, healthcare and education.

A study by ABS on Housing Occupancy and Costs delved into this 30/40 rule more deeply, showing that of those low-income households, almost 60% were in housing stress by the amount they were spending on keeping a roof over their heads. Add in the competitive nature of the Australian rental market, particularly in well-populated capital cities like Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth, and the risks of not having access to cash can be dire.

That was the case for Jess. She and her partner had already used up all of their savings on their move when they had to get her car fixed. Jess estimates that they were paying about 50% of their joint income on rent. So not being able to complete her shifts would have meant even less money coming in, making paying rent a near impossibility, and eviction a possibility.

“We had no idea what to do. How do you get help with paying your rent in an emergency when you don’t have any savings to fall back on?” said Jess, adding that saving even $50 of her wages was incredibly difficult for the couple at the time.

Financial challenges are widespread

When people cannot afford to pay for emergencies, they are often left with no choice but to take out personal loans, sign up for credit cards, borrow from family or friends, or forego other important necessities while they get back on their feet. While this can sometimes offer a much-needed solution, there are also downsides. Think predatory loan terms, getting deeper into a debt cycle, experiencing ill health due to foregoing otherwise important medical, mental health and personal commitments, and the risk of straining important relationships with loved ones.

While the problem may be on the rise, there are other ways to get help with paying your rent in an emergency.

How to get help with your rent

Read your tenancy agreement and contact your union

Find out what your rights are as a tenant. Find out what happens if you make a late payment or if you miss a month and when eviction proceedings would theoretically begin.

The tenants union in your state can advise you on how long you have before eviction proceedings will start, which gives you some valuable time to work with. They will generally advise what the best course of action for you to take is based on your specific tenancy agreement, and how to come to a lawful and amicable outcome with your landlord. Each Australian state has different residential tenancy laws, so make sure you reference the correct legislation for your jurisdiction.

Here are the correct union and tribunals by state who may offer help with paying your rent in an emergency:

Australian Capital Territory:

New South Wales:

Northern Territory:

Queensland:

South Australia:

Victoria:

Tasmania:

Western Australia:

Talk to your landlord

If you are a good tenant and have a good relationship with your landlord, they may be willing to work with you without third-parties getting involved. Ask if they will accept a late payment or if you can pay your rent in instalments.

Contact charities

Non-profit organisations can step in to help when the government can’t. Faith-based charities like Wesley Mission, The Salvation Army and The St Vincent de Paul Society may be able to provide emergency funds to pay your rent and utility bills, or provide temporary housing relief.

According to Vinnies Executive Officer of Support Services, Christine Callaghan, programs by these charities are designed on “getting people the right support in the least intrusive way.”

“Sometimes a listening ear and a short term fix are not enough,” she says. “When a member is concerned that the support needs of the person they are assisting are more complex, they can be reassured that the individual will be linked with appropriate services and programs that suit their specific needs and that there will be ongoing support, in safe hands. These referrals address both immediate and longer-term concerns.”

Contact your local centres to find out if you meet their requirements for financial help.

Explore other income sources

Ask your friends and family members for help with paying your rent in an emergency, or see if you can get an advance on your wages from your employer. Some companies may also have a hardship fund for employees. Have a look around the home and see if there are items gathering dust that you can sell on places like Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree. This is often a good way to be paid quickly, in cash.

Consider crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a great solution. A good way to alert friends and family to your situation is by starting a fundraiser on GoFundMe. They provide free fundraising so that you get to keep more of the money that you raise.

Rent payment help for veterans

If you’re a veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs may be able to assist you with income support.

Government aid

There are lots of different reasons why someone might be in need of a temporary helping hand from government and need help with paying their rent. Services Australia may be able to help, through a range of resources and relief options that can help not only in the short-term (like rent assistance), but also teach valuable money management and budgeting tips through financial counselling.

Out Of Reach? The Australian Housing Affordability Challenge parliamentary paper suggests that those who are in private rentals will always need some subsidy to help them meet [the] cost, so it’s worth exploring if Commonwealth Rent Assistance can help you.

A rent crisis can be a sign of a bigger problem

By taking a look at the bigger picture when faced with a one-off, emergency expense, people can avoid years of financial struggle.

For Jess, her struggle to pay the rent was a sign that she and her partner needed more help than they were prepared to admit to get by.

“We felt terrible,” Jess says. “We wanted so badly to be self-sufficient, but we just couldn’t make it work.”

There are a number of free resources available to you if you ever find yourself in a situation like Jess’s, with hubs like Moneysmart aimed at helping Australians not only take control of their money, but build a better life in the longer term.

Moneysmart offers help in the areas of:

  • Managing your everyday money
  • Reducing your debt and getting you out of debt completely
  • Planning for the future
  • Growing a nest egg and building your wealth

There’s no shame in asking for help

Whether you ask for help through a non-profit organisation, friends, family or crowdfunding: don’t feel embarrassed.

“Everyone falls on tough times,” Jess says. “It happens to more of us than people realise.”

So if you’re struggling and need to raise money to pay your rent, take a deep breath. Contact your landlord, a charity or non-profit organisation, your friends and family or start a crowdfunding fundraiser. Above all, remember that you are not alone. Sometimes we all need a helping hand.

For further information, read our posts Need Emergency Financial Assistance? These Resources Can Help and Where To Find Financial Help During the Coronavirus.

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